Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Verrazano wins Tampa Bay Derby

WINNING TUNE: Old Tune, trained by Todd Pletcher, wins the Grade III $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes on Festival Day at Tampa Bay Downs.

Tampa Bay Downs

WINNING TUNE: Old Tune, trained by Todd Pletcher, wins the Grade III $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes on Festival Day at Tampa Bay Downs.

OLDSMAR — Standing near the winner's circle late Saturday afternoon at Tampa Bay Downs, Derby Lane kennel owner Hans Limmer echoed what other late-arriving fans were saying.

"I can't believe people are still coming," he said.

With Verrazano and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez on display, the Festival Day crowd of 10,476 wanted to see a big victory from a big Kentucky Derby hopeful. They weren't disappointed.

Verrazano, the undefeated 3-year-old colt from the high-octane barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, had plenty of gas in his tank after a workmanlike three-length win in the Grade II $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby.

The son of More Than Ready collected a $210,000 paycheck, but more important, he got 50 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series and a probable starting berth in the first Triple Crown race, May 4 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

"It's great to come here and get the 50 points," Pletcher said. "Everybody can take a little bit of a deep breath and see what happens next time."

Verrazano, ridden by Velazquez, stayed close early to Sam F. Davis winner Falling Sky, who set the pace through a quarter-mile of 23.40 seconds. Verrazano took command after that. The Kentucky-bred cruised into the lead with a half-mile clocking of 47.69, and he was never again challenged as the heavy favorite ($2.80 to win).

Winning time for 1�th miles was 1 minute, 43.96 seconds.

Java's War, a 32-1 shot, finished second under jockey Willie Martinez, 4¼ lengths in front of Falling Sky. Dynamic Sky was fourth.

The top four finishers received Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a sliding scale of 50-20-10-5.

"I didn't want to be caught up in head-to-head into the backstretch," Velazquez said.

"I took (Verrazano) back a little bit and then got away from (Falling Sky). I gave (Verrazano) a little break on the backstretch, and at the three-eighths pole, I let him do his own thing."

It was Pletcher's second Tampa Bay Derby win. The first was with Limehouse in 2004.

"We didn't want to be second (Saturday)," said Pletcher, whose 12 Derby starters have finished second six times.

Pletcher said the Wood Memorial on April 6 at Aqueduct in Jamaica, N.Y., is "most likely" the next race for Verrazano, who improved his record to 3-0 with his first stakes victory for owners Let's Go Stable, Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor.

"We learned he can travel and handle two turns," Pletcher said. "(Tampa Bay Downs) is a little more sandy than any surface he has ever been on. All the things that we worried about coming in, he seemed to check off all those boxes."

Other stakes winners on the card were Old Tune ($5) in the Grade III $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes and Manuka Honey ($4) in the $100,000 Suncoast Stakes. All-source handle on the 12-race program was $10,291,828.

Verrazano wins Tampa Bay Derby 03/09/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 9, 2013 10:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Want elite college football athletes? Recruit Tampa Bay

    Blogs

    Now that college football watch list season is over (I think), here's one takeaway you probably already knew: Tampa Bay produces a lot of great athletes.

    Robinson High produuct Byron Pringle has gone from this performance in a high school all-star game to all-Big 12 at Kansas State.
  2. 'Ready to win, and win big:' Dick Vitale sees Bucs going 10-6

    Blogs

    ESPN's Dick Vitale, whose love and optimism for Tampa Bay sports teams goes far beyond basketball, has high hopes for the Bucs in 2017.

    ESPN's Dick Vitale, shown at One Buc Place last year when he announced a Bucs draft pick, has high hopes for Tampa Bay this fall, predicting a 10-6 record for the Bucs.
  3. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    Rookie RHP Jake Faria had his lucky rubber duck — OG, the original one he has had since high school — with him, and the Rays had nothing to worry about as he put his rocky Wednesday outing well behind him, working into the eighth while scattering seven hits.